Who was the first person to set foot on the moon? Of course the answer is Neil Armstrong — who else?
But, actually, the question really is “who else?” In order for Armstrong to walk the moon, there were innumerable individuals who contributed something large or small to get him there. His mom and dad, Mission Control, fellow astronaut and crew member Buzz Aldrin, a nation of taxpayers — and the list goes on.
What’s the point? Simply put, there’s no doubt that Armstrong was an amazing pioneer, but he didn’t get to the moon — or back home — alone. It took a team.
Being a marketing pioneer in the B2B technology space is no different. You need to have skills and ambition of your own, but you also need an amazing team by your side.
“The technology industry is synonymous with rapid pace and constant change, and technology marketers are expected to lead that change,” trusted colleague and client Angela Schwecke, Senior Director of Global Audience Marketing at SAP SuccessFactors, said. “Success depends on many factors, but the most important is choosing the right team, not the least of which is your agency.”
So, how can you be sure you have the right team aboard your mission? Let’s blast off and explore the four critical characteristics of an outstanding partnership with a marketing agency, plus snag some pointers from marketers like you on how to make your client-agency partnership soar.
Always-On, “Snoopy Cap” Communication
It’s no secret that astronauts must wear protective, pressurized suits to keep them safe whenever they exit a spacecraft. And as you might expect, constant communication with their team is critical. So, their space suit comes equipped with a Communications Carrier Assembly, which is often called: the “Snoopy Cap.”
Just like astronauts must stay in direct, always-on communication during spacewalks for safety and effectiveness, so too must a client and agency to be successful.
In the B2B space, you’re likely fielding communications from a variety of stakeholders inside and outside of your Mission Control center. As a result, you need an agency partner who can cut to the chase — with good news and opportunities.
Expect your agency to regularly share what is happening with your results. In a perfect world, your results would always give you over-the-moon warm-fuzzies. But if the results aren’t where you’d like them, expect your agency to acknowledge that directly and bring you an action plan. A great partner should serve up solutions — not problems.
Flight Surgeon Trust
In the early days of space exploration, astronauts-in-training avoided their flight surgeons at all costs. Just one sneeze in front of their doc might get them grounded. Today, things are different. Flight surgeons have strong partnerships with astronauts. From riding along during training exercises to flying in T38s, flight surgeons do everything they can to ensure astronauts stay on flight status. Once in flight, astronauts can feel safe putting their health in their flight surgeon’s hands because they’ve become a trusted partner.
In our experience, top-performing marketing programs are rooted in a similar, strong, trusting client-agency partnership. To select an agency, listen to your gut during the sales process. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or pressured up front, it might not be a fit.
Then look for signals that instill confidence from Day 1 of your partnership:
- Are they asking critical questions to completely understand your objectives, priority metrics, audience, industry, brand voice, key messages and more?
- Do they understand your marketing mix and how their contribution fits in?
- Are they genuinely interested in how your brand can solve problems for your customers?
- Are they familiar with the intricacies of your industry?
Once you’re feeling comfortable with your agency, don’t be afraid to give them the joystick. You hired them for a reason. Let them push boundaries and you might be surprised how high you can soar.
Mission-Specialist Thought Leadership
A “mission specialist” is an astronaut with specific expertise who comes aboard a spaceflight to lead a particular research project. These individuals may not be able to fly a space shuttle, but they are the absolute best at what they do.
Expect your agency partner to be the mission specialist and a strategic thought leader on your team. Esteemed marketer and client, Katie Levinson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at LinkedIn Elevate, said partnering with a strategic thought leader is her top priority when solidifying a long-term partnership.
“I like agencies who bring fresh new ideas to the table, and the ideas are based on the goals of my business and their knowledge of my target audience,” she said.
Schwecke also added that your agency partner in the B2B tech space should be able to help you lead marketing change, have their pulse on modern marketing hallmarks and be able to create star-studded communications.
“Tech marketers must look for an agency that not only embraces, but embodies change,” she said. “Many agencies will claim to have B2B tech capabilities, but spend time drilling down on those details.”
“Look for a team that embraces modern marketing hallmarks like digital, social, and influencer marketing,” Schwecke added. “You’ll be able to find a few. But rarer still, will be the agency that understands the how those marketing elements can be combined to create new and disruptive communications. If they are passionate about that, you have a winner.”
Your agency should continue to earn their seat in the cockpit by bringing forward new ideas and by iterating on tactics based on learnings. You don’t want an agency that is going to sit still.
“We Have Lift Off” Execution
Perhaps one of the most iconic quotes from the launch of the Apollo 11 mission — the mission that would land humans on the moon — is “We have lift off.” As it relates to choosing a trusted agency partner, the former characteristics discussed don’t mean much if your agency can’t execute.
Many agencies can show you a beautiful presentation, but if they are not driving results aligned with your objectives then what’s the point?
When it comes to selecting an agency that can execute the mission, Levinson said: “I look for attention to detail, creative thinking, and the ability to stick to a timeline (or beat it) as key for success long-term.”
She also noted it was important for an agency to drive optimization after tactics are implemented:
“Along with this, the ability to optimize content and other programs through performance metrics is key,” Levinson said. “It’s not enough to launch a program — an agency needs to help you understand if it’s successful and how to make the next project even better.”
Look for a partnership where your agency leads the charge with thoughtful execution, quickly followed by measurement and optimization.
Astronaut Training Never Stops
No astronaut can be flight-ready without intensive, ongoing training. If you really want to fly, take some advice from stellar content marketer and longtime client, Emily Miller, Content Strategy Lead at Pantheon.io:
“Working with an agency is a two-way street,” she said. “It is important as a client to make sure you’re upholding your end of the agreement. You can’t expect the agency to be successful if you aren’t willing or able to put in the energy to make sure they understand your business. That includes sending timely and constructive feedback, as well as doing your homework before meetings to make sure you’re both getting the most out of the time.
“From the agency side, I always appreciate when account managers document meetings and follow up with what was discussed and who has ‘homework’ so that we aren’t re-hashing the same thing each meeting.”
You can help your agency become a trusted extension of your marketing team by:
- Providing frequent, constructive feedback – even if the conversation isn’t easy
- Setting clear expectations for what you are looking for and when
- Extending your trust, allowing the agency space to think big
Need a New Support Team?
If this article left you wanting more from your agency partner, don’t be afraid to reach out. Our team of smart, creative and results-focused professionals are ready to take on your biggest challenges and bring new ideas to your content, SEO, social media, digital advertising and influencer marketing. Pop on your “Snoppy Cap” and send some radio waves our way today.